Pre-Felton works bought on Barry’s advice
* MacDowell Eve {1877} Bendigo [SC]
* Unknown (Italian 19C?) Lions (2) {1862} Lost [SC]

Portraits of Barry in the pre-Felton collection
Botterill Sir Redmond Barry {1892} SLV [PA]
Gilbert & Ball Sir Redmond Barry 1887 {1887} SLV [SC]
Summers Sir Redmond Barry {1860} SLV [SC]
Thomas Sir Redmond Barry 1856 {1881} SLV [SC]
Woolner Sir Redmond Barry 1878 {1881} NGV [SC]
See also Casts – II. Busts & heads (II.11), for a plaster bust of Barry (possibly after James Scurry?)

Barry’s remarkable role as a key figure in the foundation and early development of four significant Melbourne institutions (the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Melbourne, the State Library of Victoria and the National Gallery of Victoria) assures him a significant place in the history of colonial Victoria. He is also well known to posterity as the judge who sentenced Ned Kelly to death, only a short time before his own death in November 1880.

After a classical education and legal training in Ireland, Barry arrived in Melbourne in 1839, where he practised law and took an active role in fostering the academic and cultural development of Melbourne. Assessments of his long and energetic career vary somewhat. To Melbourne’s early chronicler Garryowen, Barry was simply “the most remarkable personage in the annals of Port Phillip.” His ADB biographer, Peter Ryan, claims that “(t)hough his values were wholly those of the cultivated European, he sought to plant these values in his new land and had nothing in common with many of his fellow colonists who saw the settlement chiefly as a means to the fortune which would enable them to retire home in comfort to the British Isles.”

More recent opinions have been less laudatory. Christine Downer, for instance (2000), describes the Fasti Victorienses assembled by Barry in c.1865 as essentially a “record of the old boys’ network” in charge of Victoria from 1851. And π.O.’s recent epic poem Heide (2019) contains various irreverent asides on Barry, concluding the discussion of Ned Kelly, drily enough: “Sir Redmond Barry’s statue is outside // the State Library now, and the pigeons // shit on it” (the reference is to Gilbert’s statue in the SLV forecourt). Kelly, famously, cursed Barry after his sentence was passed, and less than two weeks later Barry died suddenly.

Barry’s role in the birth and early development of Melbourne’s art collections was clearly driven by the respect for classical tradition enshrined in the pedimented facade of the Public Library Building, and his bust by Charles Summers, casting him as a noble Roman. Similar values obviously informed his initial view that Melbourne’s artistic education would be best served by plaster casts of antique statuary. Over the next 20 years, however, his ideas on art did develop, to the extent that by 1880 the collection had become substantial and varied, if still fundamentally conservative, as many of the entries in this catalogue demonstrate.


See (biography by Peter Ryan, first published in ADB vol.3, 1969), as quoted above (also including the Garryowen quote, from 1888); see also Ann Galbally, Redmond Barry: an Anglo-Irish Australian, Melbourne UP, 1995

For Barry’s involvement in the early development of Melbourne’s art collections, see Ann Galbally’s various publications (refer Bibliography): see also the essays by both Galbally and Christine Downer in the special Barry issue of the LaTrobe Journal (no73, Autumn 2004); and also SLV The Art of the Collection (2007), esp.p.41. Downer’s acerbic analysis of the Fasti Victorienses appears in Bonyhady & Sayers, Heads of the People (2000), p.63; and the quote from π.O appears on p.383 of his Heide (see also pp.51-53)